I am extremely fortunate to have a sponsor who not only is meticulous about his work but also absolutely committed to BSSO scooter racing. As I’ve learnt in the very brief time that I’ve been racing, the emphasis from Jon and Paul ‘Chalky’ White at Replay Racing is ‘preparation is key’. The maintenance of the Group 4 Evo Lambretta GP200 at the track would again be the responsibility of Replay Mechanic Dan Mears, as Jon was involved in the race meeting in his capacity as a committee member. No mean feat but the great thing about racing, there is always someone at hand to offer support, guidance and a spare pair of hands.
Meanwhile back in Stamford, Harry Smith’s trusty Vespa PK was also having a full once over by Stamford Scooter Centre’s Doug Edwards. Harry’s PK had performed near faultlessly at Darley Moor, competing and finishing each and every race he entered. We also both took off the race wets and fitted rims with new dry race tyres in the anticipation of racing in the dry. Out of the four races I had competed in previously during my rookie season each and every one had been a wet meeting so I was getting the reputation of a bit of a Jonah weather-wise. So, we were both now ready for our next challenge.
With the planned BSSO Meeting at Anglesey cancelled it really was all hands to the pump for the BSSO committee members to look at the possibility of a last-minute replacement venue. As a competitor, we really did have the easy job of just turning up to race. Behind the scenes, hours and hours of liaison consultation and planning were going ahead to ensure competitors teams and spectators weren’t disappointed. The result of Stephen Hamilton and Dave Bristow’s tireless work and the rest of the committee’s dedication and refusal to fail was rewarded with the first BSSO scooter only race meeting in several decades. And the venue? Three sisters at Wigan – to some, the spiritual home of scooter racing.
For myself and Harry it was another new track to learn (and experience) and one with a fearful reputation that is both physically and mentally demanding for veterans and novices alike. Having arrived at Wigan the Replay Racing paddock was already set up as I was joined for this outing by previous BSSO Champions Steven and Darren Conneely. With the BSSO team running matters, scrutineering took place of riders, machines and equipment later in the evening, which ran faultlessly and was without the normal large queues that we face when the BSSO are guests at other larger meetings. This allowed for a proper walk of the track in daylight. Well, this track was like nothing I have ever ridden before, despite having studied it on social media and followed Darren Conneely’s and Justin Price’s YouTube videos it really wasn’t what I expected. Harry as an ex-moto cross rider had a huge grin on his face as he anticipated himself throwing the lightweight PK from left to right. Having the advice and experience from Darren and Steve really was priceless as I tried to remember and store all the information being bestowed on me by these two incredible riders ‘Make sure you’re on full throttle as you go over the blind brow of the hill’ says Darren Conneely! Yes, he was absolutely serious, this track meant it really was time to grow a set or get left behind.
Saturday arrives and we have a glorious day of sunshine ahead of us as activity in the paddock started to increase. We were joined by a familiar face, that of Paul ‘Chalky’ White from Replay Scooters, back racing after announcing his recent retirement. Also, Darren’s latest steed the new Badger! A newly built Replay Racing group 4 race bike that would be entered in not only the Stock Class but also the higher Group 6 Super Scooters Class. A highly anticipated return of a well-respected rider on a bike built by another highly respected member of the scooter racing scene. After a thorough briefing by the clerk of the course Stuart Davison and the BSSO chairman, the first practice session was upon us.
Production Class, as well as Stock scooter groups, entered the track for ten minutes. It doesn’t sound daunting but for many of the 32 riders on track, it was the first time out on track (and machine). With so many riders on track it was interesting to say the least. With the top riders putting in sub 1 min 10 second laps it wasn’t long before the experienced and quicker riders were swerving in between the novices and slower riders who were adding mobile chicanes all over the track.
Harry took to the tight winding track like a fish to water and was posting a very respectable 1.15 min whilst I was significantly further back on a 1.23 second lap, this being five seconds quicker than my first lap of the session of 1min 28. However, I was hoping that some clutch adjustment by Dan Mears would help change that. Within a short time and the relevant fettling and refuel completed we were back out for our Gp 6 Super Scooters practice session. This session was far better for me as I posted a 6-second reduction and a time of 1.17 – which was encouraging, whilst Harry dropped his best time to 1.14 secs. We were both hoping this was a sign of things to come. With both practice sessions completed it was back to the paddock, scooter on the bench for a check over, refuel then back out for qualifying. My plan was to try and hang onto the tail of an experienced rider even for a couple of laps in order to try and reduce my time and not be at the back of the starting grid. However, everyone was getting quicker and everyone’s times were dropping as people pushed harder for the better starting position. So, at a fastest 1.15 sec lap time I had taken another couple of seconds off my previous quickest time and almost 8 seconds from my practice times.
However, things didn’t end as planned, whilst trying to keep up with John Woods I got my lines at the entrance to the sweeping right-hander completely wrong. I ended up on the kerbstones then onto the grassed area in the centre of the corner. Not too bad you think, until any little grip the race tyres had on the grass was exhausted. Before I knew it the bike went away from me, the front end tucked under and I was off with an almighty thud and surfing along the grass separated from the scooter. Feeling like I’d been hit in the ribs with a series of combination punches from Mike Tyson and having had the wind knocked out of me I managed to pick up the scooter, straighten the handlebars and push the scooter back to the paddock. Looking at the state of the forks I thought this was the end to my race meeting. As this was my first ever race crash, I was a bit dazed and confused and had no idea what to do. Luckily there were people around to recover the bike from me and point me in the direction of the medical centre where I was examined by the medical officer and subsequently cleared to race again. So, back to the pits, I waddled in, still winded and starting to feel my age. The bike, however, was in a worse state than me, once all the grass and clumps of mud were removed the damage was more noticeable and it was taken to the scrutineering bay for inspection post-crash.
The results, a full front-end strip was required as the forks were severally bent and potentially unusable, strip completed and when all hopes were fading the extraordinary services and skills of Barry Braithwaite from Team DSC were called upon. No one knows how he does it but somehow with a block of wood, an eye for detail and knowledge of how much brute force is required to be subjected to at a certain point our potentially bent and written off forks are within a couple of mm’s of being 100% straight. Not perfect but when built up again and examined enough to pass the strict eye and examination by ex-racer turned BSSO chief scrutineer Roland Davis. So, within the space of GP 6 qualifying and the Bantam qualifying period, Jon Gilbert, Dan Mears and Shaun Havenhand had rebuilt everything, checked it over and replaced any damaged parts. We were ready for race one. The only downside was that as I hadn’t managed a qualifying time for the Gp6 session I was at the back of the grid for each and every Group 6 start. Barry Braithwaite saves the day for which I am extremely grateful as I was able to compete in all 6 races.
As the racing starts Harry and I have a positive start with him getting a 6th place finish in the first Production Class race and a 14th place finish in the Super Scooter race. Myself one place behind in 15th in the Super Scooters and 16th in the Gp 4 Evo Race. The 1st stock race being eventful as Danny Loder on his Hornet GP4 Evo machine had a high side right in front of me on the entrance to the sharp left-hander. As the photo shows it could have been a lot worse as I swerved just in time to avoid colliding with Danny as he spawned along the track. I did joke with Danny that taking avoiding action cost me 3 places!! His reply can’t be published but thankfully him and his machine are fit and well, ready for the next meeting.
Five races into my rookie racing session and I’m no longer at the back being lapped over and over again by the rest of the field and just making the numbers up. I’m now competing and enjoying the battles with Andy Walker, Paul Fitzgerald and Jer Crew as well as Harry – all seasoned racers who are bringing me on in my riding.
Our final Production and Stock race see us finish 8th and 9th respectively in our races as we both line up for the 6th and final race of the day’s racing – race 3 of the Super Scooters. By fitting two day’s racing into one day it certainly made it very intense and most riders are pretty exhausted from the constant racing. Harry and I as rookies are still buzzing from the day’s racing and determined to put on a good show as we line up on the grid for the start. Harry is well known for his quick starts and throughout the weekend he consistently made up several places from the time the flag drops to the first corner, on the other hand, I know this is one of my weakest areas that I need to work on. This time the flag drops and I’m in with the group throughout the race, I’m back and forth with Harry, swapping places. with a lap to go and Harry battling a burnt clutch I managed to get Harry on the brakes on the inside to the 180-degree right-hander and somehow manage to fend him off as we finish in 9th and 10th place with me getting my fastest lap of the weekend at 1:12.74 and just under a second in front of Harry at the chequered flag.
For me, despite my crash, my times came down each race and certainly gave me something to work on should we visit Three Sisters again. As a rookie and a new racer this has been my best event to date. Not only has the racing been fantastic it’s great to see over 500 paying scooterists and spectators supporting the event. The meeting was so well planned and organised that it just made the weekend. I can’t finish the article without giving a mention to Darren Conneely and Paul White who built and raced the Replay Racing Gp4 machine. Dominating and winning 5 out of the 6 races they entered in both Gp 4 and Gp6, as well as winning the trophy for fastest lap of the weekend. An inspiration to scooter builders as well as racers throughout the paddock.
Graham Tatton from Team DSC was also in devastating form taking a hat trick of wins in the production class on his DSC RB20. Roll on Pembrey in July.
Words Phil Hallam
Team Replay /JG Scooters
It was my first time racing in the Three Sisters Circuit and even though we managed to walk it the previous day (Friday night), the first impression was completely different in the practice early on Saturday morning. The tarmac was very sticky but not the smoothest in several corners and with a combination of a wrong tyre and suspension setup, the race wouldn’t be easy.
The time of exploring the track got lesser when due to a technical issue we couldn’t make it to the qualifying session but this also gave us extra motivation for more battles! We had several scraps with Steve Conneely during the races, and while both bikes were shaking through the fast corners, none of us wanted to lift their throttle. After every race, he was always volunteering to help me get improved, giving me advice on which corners I was off the pace. As I could always hear his exhaust while he was on my tail (a sound that is still haunting me). This bonding couldn’t be missed in the last race, as after I crashed in the first lap, he followed me a couple of corners later. The crash caused a bent frame and a wounded tail bone, as it seems that the kerbs were quite tall in that corner.
Nevertheless, the weather was amazing and the racing spirit even better!
Regrets? Just two. The first is that Hornet Racing’s boss will have to fix the bike once again, and the second is to the action camera’s technical issues that caused the loss of amazing footage.
Sincerely yours, Hornet Racing’s rider, John the Greek
If you want to know more about the BSSO and get the full race results click here.
Thanks to Lee Hollick for the images in the gallery above. If you want to see loads more you can click here to visit his Three Sisters race gallery.
Also thanks to Phil Hallam, John Chitoglou, Justin Price, Dan Mears and Kev Corbett (KRC Photography) for help and images for this article.